Gender and technology: gender mediation in school knowledge

Murphy, Patricia (2006). Gender and technology: gender mediation in school knowledge. In: Dakers, John R. ed. Defining technological literacy: Towards an epistemological framework. New York, USA: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 219–237.



Historically, technology education was perceived as an instrument of social reform and control designed to maintain and reinforce the social spheres of males and females. Current representations of technology, which cohere around notions of technological capability, are considered to be 'free' of symbolic gendering. This assumption fails to take account of the deeply gendered history of technology. The chapter examines some of the evidence derived from an English curriculum context about gender-technology interactions that have international relevance. It examines first the historical legacy of the subject and how this positions teachers and students in relation to it. Next students' course choices and performance are discussed as outcomes of the way gender mediates knowledge construction. Findings about gendered views of salience are examined and case study data from two studies, a national intiative in electronics and an ethnographic study of single-sex teaching are drawn on to consider students identification with and positioning in the subject and how this is mediated by teachers' practice and students' perceptions of their competency. By adopting a situated view of gender the chapter demonstrates some of the complexity of gender-technology interactions and highlights what needs to change in the curriculum and teachers' practice if gender is to become less significant in students' constructions of identities in relation to technology education.

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